"Jurassic Park," Steven Spielberg's 1993 megahit, is here. When it was re-released in theaters a month ago it passed the $900 million mark at the box office. It earned a total of $880 million when it was originally released in June 1993.

Buyers have their choice of five formats. Available now are three VHS videotape versions (pan-and-scan, letterboxed and Spanish sub-titled) at $24.95 each. Next week, two laserdisc types will hit the shelves - THX/CLV-letterboxed ($44.98) and THX/CAV-letterboxed ($74.98).So many consumers preordered the video that it vaulted to the top of some video sales charts before it was released.

"JP" - that's what I'm calling it - should become the all-time video seller, surpassing Disney's "Aladdin," which sold roughly 24 million units to date, said Maria La Magra, MCA/Universal's vice president of publicity, at last summer's VSDA Convention in Las Vegas.

What you get is clear and sharp, the best film-to-video transfer in recent memory. The only drawback is that most home-entertainment systems don't include Dolby surround-sound to make the most of the audio tracks. Remember how, in the theaters, every T-Rex step shook the theater? With regular TV sound, that thrill is mostly gone; it takes a full stereo sound system to make the most of this one.

If you do have upgraded sound, you will see why the film won Academy Awards for sound and for sound-effects editing. It also won one for visual effects, a tribute to the movie's design team headed by Stan Winston, whose studio built the live-action dinosaurs.

Best way to view this video is in the letterbox format, just as Spielberg shot it. The pan-and-scan version includes an opening message that "this film has been modified from its original version. It has been formatted to fit this screen," with the the image sliding back and forth to fit the wide-screen image into the small-screen format. The letterbox approach gives you the entire frame as it was shot, which includes black bars on the top and bottom of the screen.

The movie stars Sir Richard Attenborough as a billionaire developer who creates the world's most extraordinary amusement park; Sam Neill as Dr. Alan Grant, who visits Jurassic Park and its many species of extinct dinosaurs; Laura Dern as Grant's girlfriend, a paleobotanist who is among the first to tour the park; and Jeff Goldblum as a mathematician who predicts disastrous consequences.

Also stars Ariana Richards as the granddaughter of Dr. Hammond who shows us some real courage and some computer savvy. When Ariana is not acting she pursues one of her favorite passions, that of creating art on canvas or paper.

One of her drawings which is of her and the other children in the film sliding down the long neck of a brontosaurus from a treetop can be seen with some of her other work at a local art galleries in selected cities.

Part of the "Jurassic" marketing blitz is the "Escape to Kauai" Jurassic Park Sweepstakes (15 grand-prize winners will jet off to Hawaii) and a Kraft General Foods Jell-O rebate deal. Next month, McDonald's gets into the act by offering a $2.50 off "Jurassic" rebate coupon to customers who buy "The Land Before Time," "An American Tail: Fievel Goes West," "Back to the Future" or "Field of Dreams" with their meals. Mac-Video strikes again.

The talk in Hollywood is that "Jurassic Park" author Michael Crichton is writing a sequel; Spielberg has said he wants to do the film.

Coinciding with the video release is "Jurassic Park: Rampage Edition" (estimated price $59-64; Sega Genesis; rated MA-13). Based on the hit film, this is an upgraded version of Sega's hit video game "Jurassic Park."

This time around, Jurassic Park is more dangerous than ever. You can play the Raptor or Dr. Grant as each collects dinosaur eggs before the island is destroyed. As the Raptor, you can tail-whip armed guards or spin-kick deadly dinosaurs. As Dr. Grant, you are armed with tranquilizer guns, grenades, machine guns and rocket launchers.

Excellent graphics and sound effects make this game as violent as the movie is, so it's not recommended for children under 13.


Question: When I set my VCR to record several TV shows in one day, I can't alternate between SP (standard play) and EP (extended play) speeds. I have to pick one or the other for all the shows. Why don't VCRs have this ability?

Answer: The more expensive ones do, but SP/EP programmability is not common in the mid-price range, probably because most consumers aren't interested in it. What's readily available on many models, though, is an automatic default - you can start a recording in SP, and if it runs too long the VCR "downshifts" to EP at the appropriate point to fit it all on the tape.

Do you have a question you'd like answered? Send your queries to Andy Wickstrom, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Box 8263, Philadelphia, PA 19101.


BEYOND SUSPICION - Stefanie Kramer stars as a photojournalist who's on the scene when a drug bust goes bad. Jack Scalia is the corrupt cop who has to keep an eye on her to make sure she's not hiding any information. Police officers are going to howl all the way through this preposterous thriller. Libra Home Entertainment, 98 minutes, rated R.

- Richard T. Ryan

(Newhouse News Service)

LEON THE PIG FARMER - This droll satire inquires whether the offspring of a ram and a sow would be kosher or otherwise. Farmer Leon (Mark Frankel) struggles to find his social place, uncertain whether he is Jewish or gentile . . . or a hybrid like that mixed-breed farm animal. Vadim Jean's deadpan film needs a touch of Mel Brooks to succeed as genuine comedy. Not rated (sexual situations, general irreverence).

- Michael H. Price

(Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

THE RIVER PIRATES - (Vidmark Entertainment, 108 minutes) Rated PG - Set in the deep South in the early '40s, this charming coming-of-age film follows the adventures of 12-year-old Willie and his friends in what proves to be their last summer of innocence. Despite the tranquil scenery, the youngsters confront a host of evils as they try to deal with death, racial prejudice, World War II and a gang of bumbling criminals. It's almost as if the Little Rascals had teamed up with Huckleberry Finn. Although it drags in sections, youngsters will probably enjoy it. Vidmark Entertainment, 108 minutes, rated PG.

- Richard T. Ryan

(Newhouse News Service)